6 ways to live with less
Lately I’ve been thinking about how we, as a family, can go about living with less – consuming less, sending less to landfill and buying less. This has come from three different places.
1) Last week, I watched three episodes of ‘How our favourite foods are made’, starring Gregg Wallace, Cherry Healey, and Ruth Goodman. The tone of the show was intensely upbeat. Sort of like, ‘look at how incredible this all is!’ with Gregg Wallace as excited as a kid in a sweet shop. And it is phenomenal just how much food is processed and distributed every day. But it was also absolutely terrifying. The amount that we consume is scary. Not just because we all over consume, although that is surely a part of it, but because of the scale needed. The factories pumping out millions (literally) of plastic bottles of milk every single day just to meet our demand for it. What happens to all of that plastic after the milk is drunk? How many resources go into making those bottles in the first place?
But 2) disgusting confession time, sometimes, I empty full bottles of milk down the sink. It happens a lot less than it used to, as I have porridge most mornings and tea during the day, but it’s something I did fairly frequently when I was working full time. And last week, two packs of minced meat went off before we had eaten them. They were both in date, and our fridge works fine, so I think the meat had previously been badly stored, and we had to throw them both away. That was an animal’s life! Which we had to chuck in the bin! It made me feel absolutely sick.
And finally, 3), I’m now on statutory maternity pay, and our income levels have just dropped significantly, so buying less is financially important as well as more socially responsible.
Stylist shared an article about how Laura Singer has done the ultimate detox and generated just one mason jar’s worth of rubbish in a year. Admirable! She makes a lot of her own beauty products, buys things in bulk and I think must recycle and compost as much as possible. All well and good in theory. But it’s so much easier said than done. I know there is a lot of stuff that I don’t want to live without, at least not at this point in time. But I do want to find ways to live with less, throw less away, and buy less in the first place. Here are a few ideas I’ve had to start doing just that, but I would love to hear more ideas!
- Stick to our meal plans. When we say ‘should we just get a take away?’ at the end of a long day, the answer is no. Always. a) Because it leaves us with plastic tubs that inevitably get thrown away, because we have too many to keep them all. b) Because they are actually very expensive. And c) because not sticking to the meal plan leaves us with uneaten ingredients which end up getting chucked.
- Start getting my milk delivered. Some mornings, when I’m up early enough, I hear the electric float whirring down the street, with a milkman delivering to our neighbours. I’d like to join them, getting a glass bottle every week, which I can then give back to the milkman to be reused later. He’s already driving around our streets, so I’ll just make his visit a little bit more worthwhile.
- Start using the compost bin again. Last year we filled up the bin, and so had to stop adding compost to it. But there is now actual compost at the bottom of the bin, so we need to dig that out, push down the material on top, and start using the bin again.
- One of my new year’s resolutions was to start a capsule wardrobe. I can’t say that I’ve been very organised about it – I have no idea how many items make up my wardrobe – but I have drastically cut down what I have in my wardrobe. This highlighted a few things I was missing, which I have bought, and now I’m done. Having less has made me feel that I need less. I have a clothing savings account, so next time I need (/want) something, I’ll think very carefully about what I want and actually invest in something very well made, that will last for years, rather than going to Primark and buying 10 things that get worn a handful of times.
Funnily enough, I packed most of my tops into a suitcase when I became too pregnant to wear them. When Theo came along, I unpacked 3 or 4, which have been added to my 5 or 6 maternity tops. Do you know how many times I’ve gone back into the suitcase to find a new top? Once. I’m seriously tempted to just give the entire contents of the suitcase to charity.
- Investigate the fruit and vegetable market in Tooting. One of the great things about living in Brixton was the market. Peter and I would go there most weeks and pick up what we needed for the week. Shopping that way is so much cheaper, and you can avoid having everything come in plastic bags. Since we’ve moved, we’ve relied primarily on online shopping delivery, which is brilliant, but does generally involve a lot of plastic. Sometimes the avocados come on a cardboard base, with hard plastic to stop them bruising, covered in a plastic wrapper. I need to make more of an effort to take the short bus ride to Tooting and buy fresh produce that I can carry home under the buggy or in a canvas bag.
- It’s so tempting to buy lots of stuff for Theodore – toys, books, clothes, etc. But he really doesn’t need very much, and we were fortunate enough to be given a lot of second hand bits from friends with older children. When he moves up to the next size, we will need to buy more clothes, but I’d like to get these second hand as well. I plan to take a bag of old clothes into a charity shop that specialises in children’s things, and buy their replacements from the same store.
What else? What small steps do you do to live with less?